A new nonprofit music school in Murphys is seeking to fill a void in the musical education of students in the Calaveras County community.
Murphys School of Music founder Ras Beeken Dan, 38, of Murphys, has seen musical education diminish in Calaveras County schools and with it, he said, goes the confidence and self-esteem of young students.
The promotion and scholarship of an education in the language of music, he said, can promote a conversation that will uplift and inspire young students to achieve.
“Music provides universally just like a positive feeling to the person and the positive aspect to others in the community. That’s what it’s doing,” he said. “It helps you be able to communicate with others. It’s a totally great opportunity to build yourself. It builds that confidence and courage and helps discipline you, just like in school.”
Since the inception of the school in January, Ras Beeken Dan and about eight instructors have served more than 40 students of all ages in classes ranging from piano, keyboard, guitar, bass, drums, vocals, strings and band.
Located in Taylor Plaza in the El Dorado Savings Center in Murphys, the building offers small rooms for personalized lessons, as well as larger spaces for group activities and recording.
But the creation of the school comes after Ras Beeken Dan’s long career in the music industry and commitment toward uplifting students through the power of music.
As a professional saxophonist, Ras Beeken Dan’s career has taken him down many paths in his exploration of music. He has played the saxophone on albums from Texas progressive rock band The Mars Volta, performed for union and session work with Disney, and with the Skunk Records group Long Beach Dub Allstars (a re-formed band of Sublime after the 1996 death of guitarist and singer Bradley Nowell). More recently, Ras Beeken Dan has worked with the Grammy-nominated Big Mountain, recorded on a new album with reggae group Steel Pulse, and performed on a 50-state tour with reggae band Pato Banton.
Ras Beeken Dan said many have asked him why he ended up in Murphys after such an illustrious and interesting career. It’s a long story, he said, and one that began with education.
Ras Beeken Dan said he understood the impact of music education while working for a school district in Orange County, teaching in enrichment and after-school programs to keep children out of gangs.
After moving to La Grange with his family and contributing to a community church and music program and Manteca, Ras Beeken Dan moved to Murphys, where he worked at a health food store.
“All the music programs in our county are dying,” he said of moving to the Calaveras County area.
“The whole town for almost two years was twisting my arm to get me to teach and I wouldn’t do it. But about November, December, I talked to a couple friends and I said ‘I’ll tell you what, I’ll start up a school, but I want to do it community based. I want it ran by us for the community.’ ”
After establishing the nonprofit school, he began to enlist assistance from the community with tax-deductible instrument donations and funding from local businesses.
And now that the first round of winter students have completed their seasonal classes, he said, the goal is to maintain the Murphys School of Music into perpetuity with fundraisers and programs for the summer months.
“When I talk to the teachers and I also sit in on the classes and watch the recitals, from seeing them in the beginning when they didn’t know anything, some of these students just blow me away. It makes me feel good that these kids are learning and they are having fun and they are smiling. Thats showing that the program is working and the teachers are doing their job,” he said.
Ras Beeken Dan said he’s also in the process of developing the first Murphys Music Festival on July 22 with musicians from Tuolumne and Calaveras counties, and that the school is pursuing a grant from the Calaveras Community Foundation.
In May, Ras Beeken Dan will have music class demos in Calaveras County schools to promote summer enrollment.
“It really fills that void, and when the summer comes, there will a lot of students in here. There will be a lot,” he said.
For more information on classes and programs offered at the Murphys School of Music, call (209) 813-0690 or (562) 818-4191, or go online to www.murphysschoolofmusic.com.
Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at (209) 588-4526 or firstname.lastname@example.org . Follow him on Twitter @gsepinsonora.